Math Contests at Illinois
About the UI Math Contest Program
The UI Math Contest Program is one of the most extensive and most visible in the country. It has been considerably expanded in recent years with additional contest opportunities and an enhanced training program, and participation in our events is at record levels. Our students have produced outstanding results in national competitions, culminating in an Honorable Mention for the UI Putnam Team in 2015.
Activities offered include training sessions and practice contests in the fall; several local math contests with attractive prize purses; and opportunities to participate in prestigious national and international competitions, including the William Lowell Putnam Competition., the Virginia Tech Regional Math Contest, and the Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM).
- Math Contests Open House: Wednesday, Sept. 7, 5 pm - 6 pm, 314 Altgeld. An informational session about our program of math contests, training sessions, and related activities in the upcoming year. Training and contest activities begin the week after the Open House.
- UI Putnam Newsletter: To receive news and announcements about upcoming activities, sign up for the UI Putnam Mailing List, by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your email address (i.e., NetID) at illinois.edu. Put "Putnam Mailing List" in the subject line.
- Math Contests Poster. A flyer with an overview of the 2016/2017 activities.
- Math Times Article. Report on the 2012/13 Math Contest Program in Math Times, the newsletter of the Mathematics Department at Illinois.
News and Announcements
- Results of the 2015 Putnam Competition. The UI Putnam Team placed 9th, its highest rank in four decades, and received an Honorable Mention. In the individual scoring, Haidong Gong placed 22nd out of the 4275 participating students nationwide. This is the highest ranking by a UI student in nearly thirty years. For more information and links to contest problems and solutions click on the above link.
- Results of the 2016 U of I Undergraduate Math Contest. The 2016 UI Undergraduate Math Contest was held February 13, 2016. The winner was Yewen Fan, a Junior in Computer Science. In second place was Phillip Harris, a sophomore in Mathematics and Computer Science. See the above link for more information and links to contest problems and solutions.
- Results of the 2015 Virginia Tech Regional Undergraduate Mathematics Contest. This year marked the third time the University of Illinois participated in the Virginia Tech Regional Undergraduate Mathematics Contest (VTRMC), a Putnam-style contest which is held in October of each year simultaneously on campuses of participating institutions. The event was an unqualified success: A record 27 UI students participated, of whom 9 placed in the top 10% overall, and three - Haidong Gong, Yifei Li, and Yuchen Li - placed in the top 20 out of the 700 participants nationwide. For more information, click on the above link.
2016/2017 Activities and Events
- Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016: UI Math Contest Open House, 5 pm - 6 pm, 314 Altgeld Hall. Learn more about our program of contests, training sessions, and related activities, at this informational meeting.
- Math contest training sessions: Wednesdays, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm and 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm, 143 Altgeld Hall. A series of informal training sessions, beginning September 14. The first time period is aimed mainly at beginners, the second period is aimed at experienced contest takes and those who cannot make the first hour. You can attend either of these sessions (or both). No registration required.
- Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, 10 am - 12 pm, 314 Altgeld Hall: UI Freshman Math Contest. An entry level math contest, restricted to UI Freshmen. PRIZE MONEY: Up to $300 in prize money to the top scorer. Registration is free.
- Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016, 1 pm - 4 pm, 314 Altgeld Hall: UI Mock Putnam Exam. A local contest, similar in format to the Putnam, open to all UI Undergraduates. PRIZE MONEY: Up to $300 in prize money to the top scorer(s). Registration is free.
- Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, 9 am - 11:30 am, 314 Altgeld Hall:
Virginia Tech Regional Mathematics Contest (VTRMC).
A Putnam-style contest, held simultaneously at campuses of
participating institutions; see the above link for more information.
First offered at Illinois in 2013, this contest attracted 23 local
Registration for UIUC students will open up in mid September.
- Saturday, Dec. 5, 2016, 9 am - 5 pm, 314 Altgeld Hall:
Known as the "world's toughest math test", the Putnam is a nationwide math
problems contest for undergraduates, and the most prestigious contest of its
Registration for UIUC students will open up in mid September.
January 19-23, 2017:
Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM).
An international team contest in mathematical modeling at which thousands
of teams from institutions around the world participate each year.
Faculty sponsorship is available for interested and
qualified teams of UIUC undergraduates.
At last year's MCM contest, we sponsored nine UIUC teams. One of our teams received a "Meritorious Winner" designation, and five others received an Honorable Mention.
- Saturday, February 11, 2017, 1 pm - 4 pm, 314 Altgeld Hall: UI Undergraduate Math Contest. The main contest event in the spring semester. PRIZE MONEY: Up to $300 in prize money to the top scorer(s). No registration required.
The William Lowell Putnam Competition
The William Lowell Putnam Competition is an annual math contest for undergraduates sponsored by the Mathematical Association of America. It has been called the "world's toughest math test", and is widely considered as the most prestigious contest of its kind. More than 4000 students from colleges and universities in the United States and Canada participate in this contest each year. The Putnam competition is held simultaneously at participating universities, usually on the first Saturday of December.
The Putnam competition consists of a morning session and an afternoon session of three hours each. In each session, six problems are to be solved. The problems are graded on a 0 - 10 point scale, for a maximal score of 120 points. The problems are challenging and require considerable ingenuity and insight, but little technical knowledge beyond high school mathematics. It is extremely rare that a contestant solves all 12 problems. For example, in the 1996 Putnam competition, the highest score was 98 points, and a score of 10 (the equivalent of a single problem solved correctly) would have placed a contestant among the top third of all 2400 participants! The highest ranking participants from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in recent years have earned scores in the 40 - 60 point range and ranked in the top 100.
The Putnam competition is open to all regularly enrolled undergraduate students; for details on how to enter click on the link below. In addition to the individual competition, there is also a team competition among participating colleges. The team rank of a college is determined by the scores of three participants from that college who have to be named in advance. The team members will, of course, still be ranked as individual contestants. The 25 highest scoring individuals and the five highest scoring teams receive monetary awards. The University of Illinois team has not made it into the money ranks in recent history (the highest rank for the UIUC team was 8th in 1975), but in 2009 one of U of I contestants, Yi-Wei Chan, placed 25th in the individual competition, good for a $250 prize.
- Results of the 2015 Putnam Exam
- Sample problems
- The AMC (American Mathematics Competitions) Putnam Archive.
Backup site (temporary backup of AMC Putnam Archive, courtesy of Kiran Kedlaya)
- How to enter the Putnam competition
- Official Putnam web site (from Santa Clara University)
- UI team rank and leading scorers since 1970
Local contestsResults of these contests are available at the following link: History of local contests. For problems and solutions see the UI Math Contest Problem Archive.
- The UI Mock Putnam Exam. The UI Mock Putnam Exam is a local version of the Putnam Exam, held each year in early fall. It is similar in format and content to the Putnam competition, but the problems are somewhat easier. The Mock Putnam Exam serves as a practice test for the Putnam Exam, and a key tool in the selection of the U of I Putnam Team. Prizes of up to $300 are available to the top scorer(s).
- The UI Freshman Math Contest. A recent addition to the local math contest offerings, the UI Freshman Math Contest is held in early fall in conjunction with the UI Mock Putnam Exam. Somewhat easier than the Mock Putnam Exam and restricted to Freshmen, the UI Freshman Contest provides incoming students an opportunity to show their problem solving skills in direct competition against their peers.
- The UI Undergraduate Math Contest. Formerly known as the "Orange and Blue Contest", the UI Undergraduate Math Contest is a long-running, locally organized problems contest, held in the spring semester. Prizes of up to $300 await the top scorer(s).
- The Illinois Integration Bee. Modelled after the long-running MIT Integration Bee, this is an integration-only contest, consisting of two rounds: A written contest involving 20 challenging integrals, and a one-on-one face-off round on the blackboard, as in this video from the 2009 MIT Integration Bee. The Integration Bee is open to all UI undergraduates and to local high school students. The winner will receive gift cards from the Illini Union Bookstore.
The UI Putnam Newsletter
The UI Putnam Newsletter is an email newsletter containing announcements about the Putnam competition and other contest-related activities at the U of I. The mailing list for the newsletter is maintained by Professor Hildebrand; to be put on this mailing list, send an email to email@example.com with your email address (i.e., NetID) at illinois.edu. Put "Putnam Mailing List" in the subject line.
Note: This is a local newsletter, with announcements of local events and activities that would be of little interest to those not at the U of I. To keep the mailing list manageable, it is restricted to U of I students and faculty, and an illinois.edu address is required.
Links and Resources
Of Related Interest
- Undergraduate research opportunities. The recently created Illinois Geometry Lab (IGL) and the Illinois Biomath Program, provide opportunities for undergraduates to get involved in research and outreach projects.
- Math Honors program. The Math Honors Sequence is a sequence of challenging courses, taught in small sections by carefully selected research-active faculty.
- Math Scholarships, Awards, and Prizes.
- Math Clubs. PiMuEpsilon is a national math honors society that has a chapter at the University of Illinois. MATRIX is a local math club that started in 2004.
Last modified: Tue 23 Aug 2016 10:31:34 AM CDT A.J. Hildebrand